Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Defying the Odds

The fall season long ended. Individual skill workouts and strength and conditioning workouts are also in the rear view. Needless to say with spring training still a month away for the Pumas (January 10th), there isn't much to report. But John Parker recently ranked the top prospects in the Texas Rangers organization for MiLB.com. Appearing on the list was none other than the Lake Erie Lasher himself. Ryan Rua finished his college career at shortstop but has played just about every other position while climbing his way to Double-A with the Frisco RoughRiders.
"The 23-year-old spent the bulk of his time at second base with Hickory but shifted to third after a late-season promotion to Frisco. He was neck-and-neck with Gallo in the race for the Minor League home run crown for much of the season -- Rua actually led the chase with 29 at the end of July."
This clip is from one of his first games after being called up to Double-A where Ryan launches a walk-off grand slam in one of his first games played after getting the call up to the RoughRiders. I can't watch it enough...this ball was crushed! Best of luck to Ryan on his journey to Arlington!

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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Fist Pump Friday: Pennant Edition

The World Series is set for a rematch of the 2004 series that saw the Boston Red Sox end an 86-year drought in a 4-game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals. It is clear that the best two teams in baseball face off on Wednesday night so there should be a lot of good reactions, after all, it is the Fall Classic. So with both the Sox and the Cards clinching their respective pennants this weekend, there were some great celebrations in the process. Here's a look at some of the best from both game 6's in a special edition of #FistPumpFriday.

The "we're starting a rally" fist pump

The "we're losing this game over my dead body" fist pump

The "I choose Division II" fist pump

Friday, October 18, 2013

Fist Pump Friday: LCS Edition

As the League Championship Series' games dwindle in number, the pressure mounts with each moment. And with the pressure, so to does the intensity of the celebrations, namely the fist pumps. Not all of these are technically fist pumps but they are in the ballpark. So without further ado, here is the first full edition of #FistPumpFriday.

 The "scored an early run, let's keep it going" fist pump

 The "one game closer to winning the pennant" fist pump

 The "I'll show you 'Mickey Mouse stuff'" fist pump

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Fist Pump Friday: Tuesday Edition

There has certainly been a lot of emotion displayed from players this postseason, and I love it! But some of it is rubbing teams the wrong way, even though it seems like a case of the pot calling the kettle black. Wherever you stand on players' celebrations, you have to love the intensity of these games and the drama they are providing. For a sport that is routinely, and lazily I might add, called boring, emotionless, et al, this is just what the doctor ordered. Teams play all summer long and when six months of work comes down to one pitch, sometimes player's are victims of the moment. With that said, I am introducing a new segment that pays tribute to the emotion of the postseason. I wanted to wait three days before debuting #FistPumpFriday,  but given what happened on this day in baseball history 25 years ago, it feels appropriate. So without further ado, I give you the ultimate fist pump.

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Monday, October 14, 2013

Baseball Strong

WOW has baseball been great lately! I'm finally over the sting of my Cleveland Indians early exit from the playoffs so I can remove the emotion from the games and just watch and enjoy. But really the emotion doesn't go away. I mean, I still have goosebumps! So even if you don't have a rooting interest in the playoffs, you can root for great baseball, and if that's the case, you are going to bed happy. And if you want more, how about some fist pumps!

Through only two games, the ALCS has lived up to its billing, providing some great dramatics already with a near no-hitter in Game 1, and then of course there was Sunday night. Despite losing a chance to steal a pair at Fenway, The Tigers have been really good and their pitching has been just outstanding. Aside from last night's 8th inning sucker punch, they have been just lights out. Going back to Game 5 of the ALDS with Oakland, Tiger hurlers have struck out 46 hitters (35 in the ALCS) put up goose eggs in 23 consecutive innings before Dustin Pedroia doubled in a run in the 6th inning.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Red Dawn

This version of The Short Hop is all about the annual "Get Acquainted Day" at Gil Hodges Field. The day featured a pair of 7-inning contests which sandwiched a cookout lunch for players, coaches, friends, and family.

The Score:
Game 1: Red 8, Black 1. Lineups
Game 2: Red 9, Black 3. Lineups

Offense: The bats came out on Saturday but the Red team did most of the hitting. But overall, the hitters did a good job squaring up balls. In game one, Joe Sturino led the way with a double, a sacrifice fly, and a run scored. There were also RBI's by Andrew Pluckbaum, Josh Handzik, Michael Madden, and Kevin Sloat. Angelo Burrage paced the Black team with a pair of singles and a run batted in.  In game two, Burrage would display some power with a home run into the wind to right in a losing effort. The Red team legged out three triples in the game thanks to Chris Hauser, Charlie Dennehey, and Ryan Keck. Cam Chestnut added an RBI-single and three stolen bases. Garrett O'Neill went deep as well, sparking a 5-run 4th inning for the Red team.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Short Hop: 9/25/13

After a rain-soaked weekend, the Pumas were back on the field with a team practice Tuesday and an intersquad scrimmage on Wednesday. The early week has been preparation for our second scrimmage on Thursday.

The Score: Black 4, Red 3. Lineups

Offense: The offense came in spurts with the victorious Black team getting some bookend runs with a pair in the 1st and a pair the 5th inning. The Red team notched a 3-spot in the 4th thanks to hits by Kevin Sloat, Jake Celleghin, and a RBI-single for Andrew Pluckebaum, all three would come around to score. The victory was secured after a pair of walks, a passed ball, a throwing error, and a base hit over a drawn in infield by Nic Sampognaro.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Short Hop: 9/17/13

After a busy weekend at The Joe, the Pumas got back in action on Monday and followed that with an intersquad games on Tuesday and Wednesday yesterday. Runs have come at a premium, which speaks to the quality of the pitching and defense over the past week.

The Score 
Thu 9/12: Black 1, Red 1. Lineups
Tue 9/17: Red 1, Black 0. Lineups
Wed 9/18: Black 2, Red 2. Lineups

Offense: Offense has been hard to come by over the last three intersquad games but the bats showed signs of life today with more runs scored than the previous two games combined. The most promising thing about the runs is that 3 of the 4 runs came with 2-outs. But overall the offense has been suffering from propeller lag after three days off due to the Best of the Midwest junior college event at Gil Hodges Field over the weekend. The test for the offense will be continuing to get back in stride during the intersquad games Friday and Saturday, carrying into next week.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Short Hop: 9/12/13

After two days of individual skill work at practice, the Pumas were ready to scrimmage. This would be the first intersquad since the scrimmage against Kankakee Community College last Saturday where the Pumas scored 18 runs on the day. The teams were shaken up a bit but the offense was just as good.

The Score: Black 5, Red 4. Lineups

Offense: Each team put together a big inning, scoring four runs a piece in the early going. Andrew Pluckebaum capped the Red team scoring in the 2nd with a 3-run home run to right. The Black team got the scoring going after Angelo Burrage recorded his first hit in almost a year since returning from injury, driving in a run in the 4-run 3rd. Nic Sampognaro would tie the game later in the inning with a double to right-center, then broke the tie an inning later with an RBI-single to left. Overall, the hitters were "tough outs" all game long.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Short Hop: Scrimmage #1

Yesterday's scrimmage against Kankakee Community College meant a few things. But most importantly for the players, they could take a break from beating up on each other for at least a day.

The Score: SJC 5, KCC 1 (Game 1), SJC 10, KCC 2 (Game 2), KCC 6, SJC 2 (Game 3). Lineups

Offense: The bats came alive and put up 18 runs on the day on 30 total hits. The extra-base hit was at the center of the offensive output. Puma hitters racked up 13 extra-base hits, including 8 doubles, 3 triples and home runs by outfielders Dylan Rajkovich and Dom Olszta. The base running was aggressive but bordered on out of control, as there a lot of stolen bases but also a number of pickoffs.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Short Hop: 9/5/13

After a high-intensity practice on Tuesday, the Pumas held their third intersquad scrimmage on Wednesday. The two teams who won their respective games last week faced off in a one-sided affair yesterday. Experience can matter in this game and Wednesday was proof of that.

The Score: Red 6, Black 0. Lineups

Offense: This game demonstrated what can happen when teams execute. Sure, there were some hits, but those hits were bigger because of good base running and productive outs. A few guys in-a-row do their jobs and you look up to see a big inning.

Defense: This game demonstrated what can happen when teams fail to execute. Communication can bring a defense down faster than a botched double play ball. And there were definitely opportunities to display more on-field leadership. Physical errors will happen (of which there was only one), but not talking to a teammate iz unacceptable. The pitching was very good, where pitchers on both sides racked up the strikeouts. Senior Brett Maus and red-shirt junior Brad Reedy each struck out the side in scoreless innings of work.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Short Hop: 8/31/13

The first week of Fall Ball ended after Friday night's intersquad game. It was the second such scrimmage of the week. Like I wrote after the first scrimmage, the first of anything always has the most energy and excitement. The same can be said for the first week. Yesterday's players had just as much aggressiveness and made just as man

The Score: Black 6, Red 4. Lineups

Offense: There were a lot more extra base hits than in game one and there seemed to be more opportunities where base runners advanced an extra base on in-between hits, balls in the dirt, and throws from the outfield.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Short Hop

It's been a few months since I've had some significant baseball to write about, and with the start of fall ball, I figure it's a good time to dust of the keyboard. I am at a new school now, taking a position at Saint Joseph's College in Rensselaer, Indiana. Like Lake Erie, Saint Joe's is a Division II school, but one thing that hasn't changed is the game. Baseball is still baseball. The characters may change but the story remains the same.

Today I am introducing a new segment to the Cave, called The Short Hop. This segment will, at least for now, feature a daily (or at least every other day) recap of fall games and practices, which will also include (at some point) player interviews. But for now, I start with a recap of yesterday's intersquad scrimmage.

The Score: The Black team won 5-3 over the Red team, which is irrelevant because the rosters will switch from time to time until the Puma World Series in early October. Lineups

Offense: The first day was hardly a slug fest but there were a lot of positives that came from the offensive end. The game was not full of extra base hits but there was enough offense for the first day mixed in with some solid pitching performances. The area that stood out was the aggressiveness on the bases. This won't be the last mention of base running in this segment.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

How (and Why) to Use Weighted Baseballs

Weighted baseballs are a training tool that coaches and players seem to either love or hate. Many coaches swear by them, but others do not want their players to get anywhere near them.

I'm in favor of using weighted baseballs for trainingwhen they're used properly, not exclusively.

For Hitters
Using weighted baseballs for hitting drills can be effective, especially if you have players who have trouble finishing their swing. It can also be a way to reinforce good extension and follow-through, and getting your hands through the zone.

Soft Toss: Start this staple drill using regular baseballs. Have a partner feed you from the front or from the side for eight to 10 reps. (I prefer front toss because it's more like a real game situation.)

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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

From the Archives: Go Hard or Go Home

Back during Spring Training, a few of the Young Go Hards set out to see which one of them was faster. Take a look to see who won between Zach Mosbarger and Aaron Lindgren.

Check out the entire video archive on The Coach's Cave YouTube channel.
Having trouble with embedding the video...view it here.

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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

It's All in the Hips

Whether you like to pivot on your back foot or raise upon your back toe, hip rotation is essential to driving the baseball efficiently.

If you watch the best hitters in the MLB, you will notice that they forcefully drive through their hips, transferring energy from their lower body to the bat and helping them add sizzle power to the ball.

To see how this works, try swinging with only your arms and note the difference in power.

Here are a few baseball swing drills designed in a progression to isolate hip rotation, then translate it into live hitting power gains.

Toe Point
This drill can be done with either a tee or partner.
  • Start by addressing the plate in your normal stance.
  • Pivot your back foot and point your toe toward the pitcher.
  • Keep your hands back and your shoulders square to the plate so that you can jumpstart the transfer by focusing on your lower half.
  • From this point, take your normal swing.
  • You should feel your hips rotate and transfer weight.
  • Keep your shoulders closed so your front doesn't open.

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Monday, June 24, 2013

Turning a Flawless Double Play

There is no such thing as a routine double play. Although it may appear routine to the casual fan, a lot has to go right to execute a twin killing.

Throughout the course of the season, I have noticed a lot of potential double plays wind up being a fielder's choice, or, worse yet, a bad throw that results in an error and advances the runner to second base.

The main problem is that infielders, specifically second baseman, are late getting to the bag. This can be because they were not in the proper starting position, had a false perception of their abilities, or used incorrect pivots.

Here are ways to improve your spacing to turn a flawless double play.

Double-Play Depth
The middle infielders should be in the proper double play depth before the pitch is even thrown so they can get to the bag early enough to set their feet. But what is proper double play depth? Before we answer that, let's start with positioning with no one on base. In that case, each middle infielder should be approximately six to eight steps away from the base and 14 step back. This is a good starting point from which to adjust.

From this point, when there's a runner on first with one or no outs, each middle infielder should take three steps toward home plate and two to three steps toward second base. This is standard double play depth.

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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Two-Knee Fielding

Letting a ground ball go through his legs is arguably the most embarrassing thing an infielder can do. Even the best fielders can commit errors occasionally, so there is always room for improvement. And one of the best ways to get fielders lower to the ground is to practice two-knee fielding drills.

Dropping to two knees to field a ground ball gets your eyes closer to ground level and makes it easier to read the hops and watch the ball into your glove. It also trains your body to get closer to the ground and experience a lower center of gravity. When you take your lower body out of the equation, you don't have to worry about bending at the waist instead of at the knees, and you can break down the process of fielding a ground ball into segments.

Two-Knee Drills
Two-knee fielding doesn't have to be practiced every day, but doing it a few times a week can solidify your fielding mechanics. These drills can be done independently, but they work best when done in progression. Do two sets of 10 reps each.

Roll Out
Start on your knees 10 feet directly in front of a partner or coach. Sink your butt as close to the ground as possible while keeping your back flat and your glove out. Your partner rolls a ball directly at you. Your job is to field it with your glove while keeping your eyes as close to the ball (and your glove) as possible.

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Baseball Training Equipment

Looking for that extra edge this upcoming season? Training aids are a great way to gain a competitive advantage and avoid slumps. To be really effective and improve your performance, a training aid must be able to directly translate to the work you do on the field. From heavy bats to hitting tees, a lot of products promise results but end up being cheap plastic. Avoid wasting money with my top five picks in baseball training aids. In my opinion, all competitive baseball players need these in their arsenal to benefit their game.

The Hitting Tee
This is the most basic and essential tool for hitting. Although it comes in different shapes and sizes, a hitting tee is most effective training aid of them all. Baseball can quickly become a complicated game, so it's refreshing that such a simple training tool can help hitters get their swing on the right path. A tee can be used for countless hitting drills. I recommend using a tee whose height can be adjusted and which can easily be moved to different locations around the plate. Tanner Tees have always proven to be durable options in my opinion.

Short Bat Trainer
Used in a variety of drills, a short bat trainer is great for improving a hitter's bat speed. It works by shortening your swing path, helping you keep your hands inside the ball at contact and reinforcing proper technique. Small bats can also be used with two hands to teach young players proper technique without sacrificing form due to strength and coordination issues.

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Training Aids for Speed and Agility

During baseball season, batting practice and fielding ground balls may take precedence during practice, but you still need to make time for speed and agility work. Therefore, you should have these five items on your wish list for agility training equipment.

Agility Ladder
There is not a coach anywhere who wouldn't want his players to improve their quickness and agility, and the agility ladder (a.k.a. the speed ladder), is a great tool for enhancing foot speed in a short amount of time and space.

Lateral Resistor/Thera-Band
The hips are one of the most neglected areas of the body to train but one of the most important for a baseball player, because baseball requires rotational movement. Placing a lateral resistor or thera-band around your ankles during drills is an effective way to strengthen your hips.

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Monday, June 10, 2013

Playing Catch

Throwing a baseball is the first skill a player learns. But it's also where the trouble starts. Surprisingly, what causes most game-time errors is not poor fieldingit's poor throwing.

Defenses are better at fielding the ball than throwing the ball. This is probably because throwing is considered such a fundamental skill that most coaches take it for granted, placing a greater emphasis on fielding and hitting. No one seems to pay attention to throwing until a game is lost due to a throwing error.

To reduce throwing errors, coaches must do more than institute a throwing program with a series of drills. Accountability and accuracy must be made priorities.

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Friday, June 7, 2013

Turning the Double Play

There is no such thing as a routine double play. Although it may appear that way to the naked eye, there is a lot that has to go right to execute a twin killing.

Throughout the course of the season, I have noticed a lot of potential double plays wind up being a fielder's choice, or, worse yet, a bad throw leads to a runner on second base.

The main problem is that infielders, specifically second baseman, are late getting to the bag. This can be because they were not in the proper starting position, had a false perception of their abilities, or used incorrect pivots.

Here are ways to improve your spacing to turn a flawless double play.

Continue Reading »

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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Developing Trust Between Pitcher and Catcher

A pitcher and catcher: two independent players, playing completely different positions with completely different job descriptions. Yet for overall team success, they must work together. Their relationship is a delicate one, and many times the two are not on the same page. Most of their problems arise when calling a game.

In most high school programs, the duty of calling pitches is left up to the catcher. However, it's not just the catcher calling the game, since the pitcher can shake off a sign. Obviously, the tandem works best when both players are in agreement.

Pitcher-Catcher Trust
Trust is the only way for this to work. For a catcher to call the right pitch in the best location in any situation, he must trust the pitcher's ability to execute. In return, the pitcher must trust the catcher's knowledge of the hitter and the opponent's lineup.

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Monday, April 22, 2013

Rizzo is Classic

While our guys were grinding it out on the diamond this weekend at Grand Valley, there was another important weekend of baseball being played. LaSalle High School in Cincinnati hosted the inaugural Reid Rizzo Memorial Tournament. The tournament featured teams from around the state, which helped raise money for Reid's foundation. Actually, it raised $3,400, which will go towards a scholarship fund for LaSalle High School students and research at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital. We wish we could have been in attendance but we were there in spirit, just like #7 has been with us all season. Miss you Reid!

Here's the full story with video from NBC 5 WLWT-TV in Cincinnati.

For more info on Reid's foundation, go to:
Website: www.reidrizzofoundation.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/ReidRizzoClassic
Twitter:  @RRF_4


Friday, March 22, 2013

The Febreze Brothers

Conference play. It's a new beginning, a fresh start. Everything to this point is just the preface to the new season. That is not to say everything that has happened to this point is moot, just consider it the foreword to the novel. It is important information but conference play can make or break a team's season.

Just like a fresh snow, much like the one northeast Ohio received over the past few days, conference play offers every team a clean slate, a new canvas in which to tell their story. After a split of Ohio Dominican on Wednesday, the Storm travels to Hillsdale, MI for the first weekend series of the year. Saturday will feature a double-header starting at 1pm, followed by a single 9-inning game on Sunday, with first pitch starting at 12pm. Of course, weather could play a factor this weekend, which could mess with start times. Stay tuned to the Lake Erie information network for any changes to the schedule.

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Home Away From Home

We have been back from the Carolinas for about a week and are ready to kickstart the northern portion of our schedule. Still waiting. Yesterday's double header at Cedarville University was cancelled, which has delayed the continuation of our season. No worries. After a workout on Friday, we get on a bus and head back to the place our season ended a year ago in the GLIAC tournament on Saturday morning. We will take on Notre Dame College in a pair of double headers on Saturday and Sunday. Lake Erie will be the home team on Saturday and will be the visiting team on Sunday.

This part of the year is more of a grind than any other point of the year. It is worse than five straight weeks of indoor practice. It is worse than trying to navigate through finals while competing for a playoff spot in late April/early May. It is the time of year where a team has already played a few games outside, hopefully in the sun, got in a rhythm and have developed routines for being in the out of doors, only to be confined to the small spaces of your respective indoor facility for an extended period of time before getting back on the field. This is the time of year where it takes the most mental toughness to stay on track towards achieving your team goals.

North Carolina Tar Heel head basketball coach Roy Williams once said that toughness is not losing sight of your goal by what you do or by outside distractions. The weather is an outside distraction. It doesn't matter that we have already lost three games on our schedule due to snow or rain. There are still 38 games on the schedule that don't care. There is a team we will see this weekend that won't care. There goal is to beat us in four games. Our goal is to beat them once, and then do it three more times. Kansas Jayhawk head basketball coach Bill Self says, "It doesn't take toughness to lift a weight or start a fight, it takes toughness to bring what it takes to win, and bring it everyday." We now have an opportunity to show our toughness starting tomorrow.

Weekend Schedule
Saturday, March 16: Notre Dame College at Lake Erie College, 2pm
Sunday, March 17: Lake Erie College at Notre Dame College, 12pm

Conference Play Opens
Wednesday, March 20: Lake Erie College at Ohio Dominican University, 2pm (DH)
Saturday, March 23:  Lake Erie College at Hillsdale College, 1pm (DH)
Sunday, March 24: Lake Erie College at Hillsdale College, 12pm

Home Sweet Home
Wednesday, March 27: Ohio Dominican University at Lake Erie College, 3pm

Check out LIVE STATS for all Lake Erie home games at www.LakeErieStorm.com.
Follow Lake Erie Athletics on Twitter @lecsports

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Monday, March 4, 2013

This Feels Right

It's finally here...in a way. No, it's not Opening Day, but it's close. We get to play baseball. Outside. Sure the season opened last weekend but this was the feeling we were supposed to have against Southern Indiana. In three days in Evansville, we did not hit on the field once. We were able to take a few ground balls and go through our I/O routine but it didn't feel like Opening Day.

This week feels better. After a 10-hour bus ride which began at 12:30am Sunday morning, the Storm baseball team was able to practice outside, on a baseball field for the first time in 2013. In five weeks of Spring Training, we were able to get outside for a full practice once, and it was on the turf football field. This feels like baseball. Drop our bags at the hotel, eat lunch, and change for practice. Warming up on grass, taking live batting practice, infielders and outfielders reading balls off the bat, and running bases at a full 90 feet. Yesterday was a great day for the team

As a collective group, the coaching staff feels 100 times better about this week than last. Not because of the opponent, or anything to do with talent, but about our preparedness. I thought Spring Training was a good five weeks, but there's only so much you can do inside. Our hitters were no longer confined to hitting in a cramped cage having to guess whether it was fair or foul, and our pitchers are no longer pitching behind a L-screen and the batter's eye directly behind them. Yes, it's finally here...baseball, as it was meant to be played.

Spring Trip Update: Lake Erie opens their spring trip today with a double header against Erskine College at 1pm. After the games, they will head to Gaffney, SC to take on Limestone College tomorrow in a single, 9-inning contest at 2pm. The Storm will continue their path north on Wednesday when they take on Greensboro College. The last leg of the trip features a double header with Pfeiffer University at 2pm. For the full 2013 schedule and to see LIVE STATS, go to www.LakeErieStorm.com. RAGE ON!

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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Not So Fast

The first leg of the 2013 spring trip just got a little bit shorter...but maybe not in games The 4-game series between Lake Erie and the University of Charleston scheduled for this weekend will get started a day later as Saturday's double header has been cancelled due to weather concerns. The forecast was calling for possible snow and a high of 33 degrees. Sunday doesn't look much better but at least it provides some hope. There is a chance the two games scheduled for Saturday may be rescheduled for Monday, but everything is up in the air at this point.

Lake Erie has made the trip to Charleston since 2009 and has gone 5-3 in 8 games against the Golden Eagles. The impact of the weather is nothing new to this series. In 2011, the Storm won a weather-shortened game in the nightcap of a twin bill, 13-9. The game ended after a delay of 53 minutes during the 6th inning, after it began to hail at Power Park. Check out some video from the dugout during the delay. For the full video archive, check out www.YouTube.com/thecoachscave.

The remainder of the spring trip is still on as scheduled but if games are lost due to weather, there is the possibility of adding a few more to the latter part of the trip. Stay current by following the Storm on Twitter @lecsports and by visiting www.LakeErieStorm.com.

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Friday, February 22, 2013

The First Pitch

The season officially began with today's first pitch. Not the first pitch that was lined by Josh Hudeck off the leg of Southern Indiana's starting pitcher, but the one that took place a few hundred miles away. The pitch had some carry, stretching from the Queen City of Cincinnati to the Osborne Center in Painesville. 

Today was an emotional day for those dawning the green and white, but there are a lot more people than just those in uniform that were effected by that first pitch. The significance of the first pitch goes beyond baseball and it connects everyone who was involved in the healing process. There were so many people who have reached out to the Storm baseball program and been there in our time of need, whom we are eternally grateful. So this video is for them as well. I would like to thank everyone who has been there for the Storm program and its players, coaches, and their families. Here's to a great 2013! Play Ball and PRESS ON!

Check out the entire video archive on The Coach's Cave YouTube channel.

For more information on the Reid Rizzo Foundation...
Visit the website at www.ReidRizzoFoundation.com.
Visit on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ReidRizzoClassic
Follow on Twitter @RRF_4

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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Glove...Check. Bat...Check. Spikes...Check.

I woke up a little after 5:30 this morning and reluctantly looked out my window, wondering how long it would take me to shovel the drive. After a Spring Training full of early wake-up calls, 5:30 is now routine and 6:15 is sleeping in. Today would require minimal work outside as there may have been half an inch, which was mostly a result of the wind blowing snow from the piles formed yesterday onto the driveway. Relieved, I went downstairs to eat some breakfast only to remember I finished off the box of Frosted Flakes a day earlier. So I skipped breakfast for now, I'd probably grab a protein bar when I filled up for gas for the third time this week! No matter, we are leaving today as tomorrow is Opening Day!

I still had some packing to do but not before I finished a load of laundry. But the packing is minimal for a three-day trip. Now in my ninth year of coaching, I have learned exactly how much to pack for any length of time for any of our trips. The games are easy-uniforms, sleeves, fleeces and jackets-are all I need for the weekend and a few t-shirts and shorts for lounging at the hotel. We play in the middle of all three days so we won't be doing anything after the games except returning to the hotel to rest up for the next day. It is roughly an 8 hour trip to Evansville from campus, which doesn't include stops, so we'll probably roll into the Comfort Inn parking lot between 12-1 am local time. The bulk of my packing (and the rest of the coaching staff) will be done on campus this afternoon. Chart bags, ball buckets, laundry essentials and extra uniforms are just some of the items we need to get in order before we leave campus. 

Normally, it is boring to talk about laundry and office supplies, but if you're talking about it in late-February, it can only mean that Opening Day is hours away. We won't be back until late Sunday (technically early Monday morning) so stay tuned all weekend for updates on the team. Until the first pitch is thrown, here is a little more info on what happened the past few days in Lake Erie baseball.

Lab Notes:

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Saturday, February 16, 2013

Shake 'N Bake...and I Helped

As I'm sure many of you have seen by now, the latest internet craze is the Harlem Shake. I guess it's an actual song but I would venture a guess that all but 30 seconds are forgettable at this point. There are several different versions (by several I mean hundreds) ranging from different athletic teams on campus to different  businesses. So we decided to throw our hat in the ring and give it the old college try. Check out the latest version along with other videos on our YouTube channel.

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Friday, February 15, 2013

Walk (Up) This Way

The walk-up song. It can set the tone for your entire at-bat without you even knowing it. So it can be imperative to your success to pick the right song. Ok, so maybe it won't make the difference between a player hitting .250 and .300 but it is still a big choice and can say a lot about the player. It's the baseball equivalent to investment bankers designing their business cards. Walk-up songs have taken a life of their own, many players have two or three. The World Champion San Francisco Giants have a page on their website dedicated to their players' walk-up music.

Walk-up songs may have originated in the 1970's, but this guy brought the concept to life, even though not everyone was a fan. Lou Brown's gut feeling aside, there are really only two walk-up songs that will hold up to the test of time and the two players who used them technically never walk-up, they run out. They are iconic mostly because the players are iconic. The duo has combined for over 1,200 saves and are one-two on the all-time saves list and really, need no introduction. Here are the two greatest walk-up songs ever.

Well that's it. The two greatest closers with the two best walk-up songs have slammed the door on this week-long look at music in baseball. Check back later this season when we debut the Storm baseball walk-up songs as we get closer to the home opener against Ohio Dominican (March 27 at 3pm). RAGE ON!
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Thursday, February 14, 2013

No Trouble with the Curve

The week-long look into music in baseball will wrap tomorrow with a look at just a few of the best walk-up songs in the game today but today is the walk-up to the walk-up. I didn't hit a lot of home runs in my college career. I hit four. So I remember all of them. One came on Easter weekend my senior year, the other three came a year earlier. Two came during the same inning of the same game, but my first one came on the "road" a few weeks earlier. Our field at Mount Union was under water so we drove 15 minutes down the road to Walsh University to play Brockport State (NY) who was ranked in the top 25 at the time.

It was a day much like yesterday's intersquad on the turf. Cold, but not freezing, but we had a periodic appearance from the sun and there was a possibility for flakes at any time. By definition, it was freezing. We knew this from the outfield from the marquee on Market Ave. shuffling through random announcements and occasionally a "32°" would light up along with the current time. Talking about the temperature was all the outfielders could do to keep occupied during the mound visits and pitching changes.

We were trailing 2-0 at the time and I led off the bottom of the 4th. We were technically on the road so we didn't have our walk-up songs. My walk-up at the time (I used a dew that season) was "Dirty Frank" by Pearl Jam. It wasn't necessarily the best song for a walk-up song but anyone who chose Pearl Jam for a walk-up song usually chose  "Even Flow" and I wanted to pick one no one else had used. All that really mattered was the first eight seconds anyway so the rest of the song didn't matter.

One of the starting pitchers who threw earlier in the week was designated as the DJ for the day. Joe McIntyre (not this one) worked at the campus radio station and ended working a few years in the business after graduation so he was the perfect man for the job. We were fans of the alternative and grundge rock scene so he played a lot of Alice in Chains, Live, and the Stone Temple Pilots. I'm not sure but I think he used his own CD's he brought with him on the drive from Alliance to Canton, which would explain why he had the song which played during the middle of the 4th inning.

One of the bands I was a big fan of, at that point in time I had seen them live only two or three times was Our Lady Peace, who I mentioned in yesterday's post. They had a few singles on the air at the time but were still relatively unknown, at least among the college students I knew. Joe Mac decided to go off the charts for his selection of "Big Dumb Rocket". I pretty much loved all the songs on the album but this was an underrated track. Appreciating the choice, I gave a tip of the cap towards the press box to Joe Mac before I walked to the plate to acknowledge the effort. It was the fourth track on the album Clumsy, and it was the 4th inning...spooky, right? Ok, so it was a coincidence. So after the 2-2 curve ball hung out over the plate and I connexted connected with the ill-fated pitch and drove it over the right-centerfield wall to cut the lead in half. I had to chuckle as I crossed home plate and glanced to the press box because as a pitcher, he naturally tried to take credit for the blast. An inning later, Mr. All-America, Chuck Moore tied the game at two with a solo shot and won it with a sac fly in the last of the 7th as we walked-off with a 3-2 win.

It was a great day all around, but it may not have been without the proper song choice between innings. So choose wisely when selecting your batting practice playlists, the songs between innings, and your walk-up songs, because its the little details that derail your dreams.

I am not a publicist, manager, or even a roadie for the band, but I just wanted an excuse to listen to this song. So here is one of the songs shuffling through my iPod, from their latest album Curve, here is "If This Is It" by Our Lady Peace.

Part 3: The Space Between
Up next: The Walk-Ups

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Space Between

Continuing my look into music in baseball, today we get into the music played during the game. From the time the home team takes the field, to the end of a 9-inning game, there are 17 opportunities (18 if if it goes to the bottom of the inning) to chose songs for the whole stadium to hear (excluding the walk-up music). There are only 90 seconds between innings so you don't have to worry about playing the whole songs, but it is important to have the best parts of each song queued up. These are the songs that when you hear them, you want to turn the volume up to 11

This is a good opportunity to play songs that may be a little too long for batting practice but it still allows for good songs to be played. "It Was A Crazy Game of Poker" by O.A.R. comes to mind, which is about nine minutes long. There are a lot marketing departments departments at major universities and with minor league, and sometimes even major league teams that like to use the time between innings to play songs that fit a certain theme (Bruce Springsteen, 80's music, Motown, etc.), which I am on board for as long as they totally commit to the idea.

What a Musician Wants
It seems as though all athletes want to be rock stars or rappers and all rock stars and rappers want to be athletes (and I want to be both) so it's only fitting to combine the two in this edition of "What a Musician Wants." In this segment, Jeremy Taggart, drummer for the Canadian rock band, Our Lady Peace, and avid baseball fan, offered his favorite songs to hear at the ballpark via Twitter (@Taggart7).

1. "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" - Tin Pan Alley by Jack Norworth and Albert Von Tilzer (1908)
2. When the Levee Breaks" - Led Zeppelin (1971)
3. "We Will Rock You" - Queen (1977)
4. "Here Comes Your Man" - Pixies (1989)
5. "Panama" - Van Halen (1984)

Up next: More music

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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Just Push Play...or Don't

The ball fields are a great place to hear some of the best songs of today and even those from yesterday (I know that sounds like the slogan for a classic rock station) but there are some songs that should just not be played at the ballpark and should be left to the Star 104 and Hot 101's of the world. Continuing with my look into music and baseball, here are the five songs I wish I never hear at the ballpark ever again...and a few I just never want to hear again anywhere.

1. "Call Me Maybe" - Carly Rae Jespen (2012): I can't express how much I can't stand this song. The Harvard baseball team gave it some extra love last season, which was kind of cool but didn't do any of us any favors. This song is destined to linger around ballparks for years to come.

2. Anything from Nickleback (1995-present): Songs from this group could fall into the category of songs to hear if you just want to ignore the music but I have the same reaction to their music as Cosmo Kramer did when hearing Mary Hart's voice.

3. "We Are Young" - Fun. (2012): Yeah sure, it won the Grammy for song of the year, but who really cares about the Grammys. The Grammy's name Shelby Lynne Best New Artist award despite 13 years in the industry and six albums released. This song is annoying but will no doubt be played at ballparks a plenty this season.

4. "Moves Like Jagger" - Maroon 5 (2011)/"Drive By" - Train (2012): These are both very catchy songs that ruled each of the past two summers but because radio stations were contractually obligated to  play them every 12.7 seconds and their appearances in several television commercials, they got old quick. The songs successes also led to this recent feud between the two bands (plus a few more artists).

5. "Crash" - Dave Matthews Band (1996): Surprisingly, I hear this at a lot of games but it doesn't quite fit at the ballpark. Somehow it was on our playlist last season as an after batting practice song, which needs to be rectified for 2013. This is more of an after game song if anything or even driving to the park song, just not during the game.

Hall of Fame List...songs that should be retired
This is a unique list of songs that at one time were enjoyable but have been around for 30-plus years and have run their course. Most of these songs found their way on this list because they are good songs and warrant a lot of play but as we head into the 2013 season, need to drift off into retirement.

1. "Don't Stop Believing" - Journey (1981): I like this song, I really do. There's a reason it's overplayed, but after hearing this song at every game I have played or coached in, and even at games I have scouted, I am over it. It has really lost its impact as an inspirational song when teams are playing it down 1-0 in the 3rd, it doesn't really work. At this point, I would rather listen to parodies of the song than the actual song.

2. "Sweet Home Alabama" - Lynyrd Skynyrd (1974): Kid Rock's 2008 "All Summer Long" was overplayed, which was influenced by this song, which has been overplayed for almost 40 years (at least the past 20).

3. "Sweet Caroline" - Neil Diamond (1969): Maybe it's because the Red Sox fans in their pink hats 
sing this song in the third inning at visiting ballparks, but i despise this song now. The only acceptable way for me to listen to this song is by either the Diamonds in the Rough or by Neil Diamond himself.

4. "You Shook Me All Night Long" - AC/DC (1980): I don't really like this song to begin with but a lot of other people do and it gets a lot of play at the ballpark, so it has earned a place in the Hall but it should also be retired.

5. "I Wanna Rock and Roll All Nite" - Kiss (1971): I like the movie Detroit Rock City. That's about as close I get to liking Kiss and this song is a big reason why. It has been played less and less I feel and that trend needs to continue. But the best way to quit is by going cold turkey.

The Quick List
Here is my short list of songs that need to get some play this season.
1. "Gold on the Ceiling" - The Black Keys (2012)
2. "Money Grabber" - Fitz and the Tantrums (2011)
3. "These Days" - Foo Fighters (2012)
4. "Hold On" - Alabama Shakes (2012)
5. "Itchin' On a Photograph" - Grouplove (2011)

Up next: Between Inning Music

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Monday, February 11, 2013

My Music At Work

The crack (or in our case, ping) of the bat, the roar of the . These are both unforgettable sounds that accompany a baseball game. As important as they are to the game, music is just as important to today's National Pastime. From batting practice playlists, to walk-up songs, to rally songs, music is as much a part of baseball as the double play. As Opening Day draws near (February 22 at Southern Indiana), we take a look at the sounds of the game in this week-long tribute to music in baseball.

Part 1: Batting Practice
Players and coaches will be subjected to hours of stadium-rockin' tunes over the course of the season before a pitch is even thrown, so it is important to pick the right songs for your pre-game playlist. So rather than waiting until the night before Opening Day to put your playlist together, let's get ahead of the game by working on your playlist now. To put the best playlist together and to keep the energy at the field at its highest, follow these simple rules. There are a lot of rules.

1. Have a few different playlists. If you're a visiting team, this usually doesn't matter since you will only hear the songs at most three days. But it is your playlist and if you have to listen to it every game of every homestand, it could drive you crazy. Just as a team can go through ups and downs, so too will your moods and changing up the music before a game may help you get back on track.

2. Have a variety of genres. Country music seems to have taken over the ballparks around the country, which is fine (not quite in my wheelhouse, but its about the kids), but when they are the only types of songs being played before games, it can wear pretty thin, pretty fast. Be sure to have a mix of rock (grunge, alternative, classic), pop, country, and hip-hop (clean versions only of course). Hitting a variety of genres can keep everyone on the field feeling pretty good.

3. One song per artist. We played a four-game series early last year and the home team's pre-game playlist might as well have been a Toby Keith album. I have nothing really against his music, but needless to say it was country-dominated and every third song had to have been from Honkeytonk University. You may have an infatuation with certain artists, but keep it to one song per artist, per mix and keep everyone happy.

4. Keep it light. The ball field is not the weight room so let's leave the Rammstein and Slayer on the cutting room floor. Your playlist doesn't have to be a weekly top 40 list by any means, but there still needs to be a level of focus before a game and hearing tunes that make you want to put your fist through a wall can be a bit distracting. Sometimes, you just want something you can ignore.

5. Stock up on songs. Unless you have to use a cd as your music source, this one is pretty easy to follow (and even then, just make a few extras if you can). But if you're able to plug an iPod into the stadium speakers, this is obviously much easier to accomplish. Just plan for 2-3 hours of music on your playlist, turn on the shuffle, and go to work.

In addition to the list of helpful hints, the songs you choose just have to be good. They have to appeal to a wide-range of people with different tastes. Typically, this is best suited for the seniors with a little input from other upperclassman. Sorry freshman, you'll have to wait your turn.

Up next: Songs that should be retired from the ballpark.

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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Remember This Guy

Sometimes it can be fun to turn back the clock...and this is one of those times. Looking through some old infield footage I came across a few bullpen sessions in 2011. Storm fans may remember this guy. He is currently starring as one of the key offensive contributors for the Spokane Indians. He is none other than the "Lake Erie Lasher," Ryan Rua. Good luck this year during Spring Training!

Check out the entire video archive on The Coach's Cave YouTube channel.

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Friday, February 8, 2013

Two Weeks Notice

It's Friday. It's 10:30. It's time to party. I am your excellent host, Eric Bunnell. We are sitting here on February 8th exactly two weeks away from the start of the 2013 season. Despite having the program's best season ever, we still have a lot to prove. Unless you're the last team standing, you'll never be satisfied with the ending. But 2012 was particularly agonizing considering the way in which it ended. Now we are two weeks away from a fresh start and our chance to rinse the bitterness from our collective mouths. So this is our two weeks notice as a baseball team. We have two weeks to lock down our routines. Two weeks to get reenergized for the new season. Two weeks to snap out of any "halfway thru Spring Training" funk we may be in. Two weeks to get right before the first pitch. 

This is not, in any way, an attempt to push the panic button but spending a month practicing summer's game indoors can inhibit a player or team's development if not in the right frame of mind. So this is more of an attempt to bring the subject to the forefront and to be aware of the position we are in, and could be in three months.

On another note, I would like to wish former pitching coach Mark Sankovich the best of luck in his endeavor in the business world. I have thoroughly enjoyed spending the past two and a half years  talking baseball and coaching along side him through a great deal of success and wish him the very best.

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Saturday, February 2, 2013

Growing the Game

The Lake Erie baseball team had some special visitors at today's Spring Training workout when nearly 30 local baseball players took over the Lake Erie practice facility. After watching the final hour of practice, the 3rd-6th graders stuck around for some fun and games, along with instruction from Storm players and coaches during a free youth clinic at the Osborne Center. Three campers went home with souvenirs after being named the best in hitting, pitching and fielding for the day. Check out some of the action from the day's events.

Check out the entire video archive on The Coach's Cave YouTube channel.

To get your organization involved with Lake Erie Baseball, contact the Baseball Office at (440) 375-7484. #GrowingTheGame

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Thursday, January 31, 2013

This Week in Video Baseball

We are hours away from the month of February and nearing the halfway point of Spring Training. With Opening Day three weeks away, the players now have their daily drills engrained into their routines as they prep for Southern Indiana (February 22, 3pm). Here is an all-access pass to the past week of Lake Erie Spring Training.

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